During his three years in Paris, the only artists with whom Chagall developed a sustained friendship were the Frenchman Robert Delaunay, who had shown as part of the cubist Room 41 in the 1911 Salon des Indépendants, and his wife Sonia Delaunay-Turk, a painter of Russian-Jewish origin. During 1912 and 1913 Chagall executed a number of paintings using vividly opposing colours that are visually similar to Delaunay’s theory of ‘pure painting’ – a development towards abstraction based on colour investigations, christened ‘orphism’ by Apollinaire in 1912. Chagall’s interest in Delaunay stemmed from his embrace of certain cubist principles; the French artist’s use of transparent, bright and complementary colours presented an intriguing shift away from the dull earth tones of most cubist palettes. There was also a transfer of imagery between the two painters – Parisian icons that were prevalent in Delaunay’s work, including the Eiffel Tower, began to appear in paintings by Chagall.
Delaunay coined the term ‘simultanism’ to describe his exaggerated use of colour to create virtual painterly space. Simultanism was an effort to respond to the complexity of modern life, arguing for the ability to perceive multiple states of being simultaneously and attempting to transfer this sensation to the canvas. As with cubism, Chagall did not attempt to absorb the theoretical basis of orphism; rather, the lively use of colour in his hands was meant to highlight the emotional resonances and symbolism of the depicted scenes.